St. Machan's Cave is a cave located on Culdee Fell, south of Loey Machan.


The cave is located lower down Culdee Fell and faces north over the lake which also bears St. Machan's name. There are two ways to reach the cave; the first, and easier route, is a well marked, centuries old pilgrims path that starts near Skarloey Road Station. The second route is a rather steep path descending from the Summit.

Most Saints who came to Sodor in the 6th century settled in more populated areas in the south. St Machan was, however, of a more solitary turn of mind. He landed at Arlesburgh and after spending a few months in Arlesdale, chose a cave on a mountain in the north. He stayed here for the rest of his life and established a great reputation for wisdom and sanctity. People came to him from far and near. He baptised his converts in the lake, now known as the Looey Machan, including, legends say, several Viking Chieftains, and the mountain on which he lived came to be known as Culdee Fell - the Hill of the Holy Man.

St. Machan has long been regarded as Sodor's Patron Saint, his cave is a National Monument, and his Day - April 30th - is a Public Holiday. In times of stress the cave and its Keeill (Chapel) have been a rallying point for Sudrians. The hard pressed Celtic church, nearly wiped out during the Norse invasions, found here inspiration enabling it to survive. Throughout the Resistance Period (1263-1304) Sudrian patriots, led by their Regents, were able to make life a misery for the troops of successive occupying powers. During the Great Rebellion and the Commonwealth Lancelot Qualtrough, Bishop of Suddery, made the cave cave his pro-cathedral, and while Roundheads stabled their horses at St. Luoc's Cathedral in Suddery, loyal King’s men worshipped here.

The cave contains two chambers. The inner room or Keeill is still largely in its natural uncut state. Its only furnishing is a small rough-stone altar, allegedly St. Machan’s, but more probably the replacement of later years. It is most effective in its stark simplicity. This chamber is separated from the outer one by a modern ”see-through” screen, normally kept locked, but easily removable when services are to be held. The outer chamber was that in which St Machan lived and received his many visitors. It opened onto the hillside, and has from time to time been enlarged as need arose. The most recent enlargement was made during the Commonwealth when, as Pro-Cathedral, extra space was needed. The walls were cut back some two yards each-side, and squared off. The outer entrance was however left as it was - small, low, uncut - with bushes encouraged to grow thickly in front to screen it from view. Inside this rough doorway the thickness of the rock was squared off so that stout 2” thick oak doors could be hung and strongly barred. The hinge-pins and bolt-sockets are still there, but the old doors have recently been replaced by lighter modern ones with panels showing incidents in the life of the saint. In addition to its use as pro-cathedral the cave gave sanctuary to “Malignants” on the run. Escape tunnels were cut leading to exits on the mountain side allowing escape across the moors to Skarloey - the other Secret Sanctuary. Roof falls have blocked these passages and their exits have not yet been found.

The whole area including the Peak has been designated as a National Park under the auspices of The Sodor Island Trust. The ruins of a former rest-house stood beside the Pilgrims' Path near the spot where the railway now crosses it. The Trust rebuilt it as a Shop and Information Bureau. It is kept staffed from Easter to Michaelmas, but is closed forthe rest of the year. An annual Service in which all denominations take part is always held on the afternoon of the Sunday nearest to St Machan’s Day, April 30th. The Culdee Fell Railway runs a special train service in connection with this event, at greatly reduced fares.

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